Blood crystal: emergent order of red blood cells under wall-confined shear flow

Zaiyi Shen, Thomas M. Fischer, Alexander Farutin, Petia M. Vlahovska, Jens Harting, Chaouqi Misbah

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    Driven or active suspensions can display fascinating collective behavior, where coherent motions or structures arise on a scale much larger than that of the constituent particles. Here, we report numerical simulations and an analytical model revealing that deformable particles and, in particular, red blood cells (RBCs) assemble into regular patterns in a confined shear flow. The pattern wavelength concurs well with our experimental observations. The order is of a pure hydrodynamic and inertialess origin, and it emerges from a subtle interplay between (i) hydrodynamic repulsion by the bounding walls that drives deformable cells towards the channel midplane and (ii) intercellular hydrodynamic interactions that can be attractive or repulsive depending on cell-cell separation. Various crystal-like structures arise depending on the RBC concentration and confinement. Hardened RBCs in experiments and rigid particles in simulations remain disordered under the same conditions where deformable RBCs form regular patterns, highlighting the intimate link between particle deformability and the emergence of order.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number268102
    JournalPhysical Review Letters
    Issue number26
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2018


    • Animals
    • Erythrocytes/chemistry
    • Humans
    • Hydrodynamics
    • Models, Biological
    • Models, Chemical
    • Shear Strength


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